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Radicchio Substitute: 12 Best Alternatives for Your Recipes


Are you looking for a radicchio substitute? If you don’t know what you can use in place of this vibrant vegetable, we’re here to help. 

Radicchio is a common ingredient in Italian cuisine. It gives dishes a distinct flavor and pop of color. Being native to Italy, you won’t easily find this vegetable in stores. If you do, it can be quite expensive. For this reason, you might need an alternative. Don’t worry; there are plenty!

cutting board with whole radicchio

What Is Radicchio?

Radicchio is a leafy vegetable that comes from the chicory family. It is fondly called “Italian chicory.” 

Unlike other leafy vegetables, though, radicchio is not green. Instead, it has a distinct dark reddish-purple hue. Radicchio has white veins that form a nice contrast on its leaves. These characteristics make it aesthetically pleasing.

This vegetable offers a crunchy and crisp texture. It tastes spicy and bitter, especially when raw.

Cooking it in any way mellows the flavor, making it more palatable for many. Despite its strong taste, raw radicchio is an excellent addition to salads. A simple dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and citrus will mellow down its pungent taste. 

There are many kinds of radicchios, but the most popular ones are Chioggia and Treviso. Chioggia radicchio is round, like a cabbage. On the other hand, Radicchio di Treviso leaves are elongated. They look like romaine lettuce. 

What Is the Best Radicchio Substitute?

If your recipe calls for radicchio and you don’t have it available, you can use many other leafy vegetables that can substitute for radicchio. Read our list and pick the option that works best for your needs.

1. Belgian Endive

Another great substitute for radicchio is Belgian endive. These endives are not purple, but they have an equally attractive pale yellow hue. Plus, they can also be eaten raw. 

This endive’s fresh, summery color complements all-green salads. What makes them an excellent alternative is that they have a similar bitter flavor. Like radicchio, this flavor gets mellow once cooked. 

Belgian endive is a direct radicchio substitute in salads and almost all recipes. 

2. Curly Endive

A curly endive is another leafy vegetable that can substitute radicchio in dishes. As its name suggests, this vegetable has distinct curly leaves. Endives look pretty, too, when added to salads. Their deep green leaves and yellow insides create a nice effect.

But when it comes to taste, they do not have a spicy or bitter note.

They taste buttery and pleasant. If you find radicchio too bitter for your taste, curly endives should be your go-to. 

3. Arugula

Yet another alternative you can try is arugula. Arugula has a mildly bitter taste and a peppery note.

It tastes more pleasant than radicchios, so you might find them more enjoyable. Another perk is that, unlike radicchio, arugula is easy to find. You can get wide varieties of this leafy green in grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

It is quite different from radicchio in taste and appearance, but it does the job most of the time. 

4. Watercress

Watercress is an aquatic flowering plant. But it is a nutritious replacement for radicchio. Plus, it is rich in vitamin K, so you’re looking at a healthy substitute here. 

Its leaves have a bitter taste that some people might find off-putting.

5. Romaine Lettuce

Romaine lettuce is one of the most common leafy greens in grocery stores. Because of this, they make easy swaps for the elusive radicchio. 

They’re popular in salads and sandwiches, as their flavor is subtle and pleasant. You can also cook romaine lettuce, as with many Chinese recipes.

It is a versatile ingredient for both raw and cooked dishes. 

6. Radish

Radish might seem like an odd replacement for radicchio. After all, it doesn’t have the leafy appearance of the other substitutes. But it is a viable option because it has a spicy taste too. 

It won’t give you bitterness, but sometimes, that is a good thing. After all, many people don’t like this aftertaste of radicchio.

If you are only after the spicy flavor, radish may be your best radicchio substitute.

7. Red Cabbage

Now, if you want something with the same color, choose red cabbage. It shares the same reddish-purple hue that radicchio has. In fact, these two are often mistaken for one another as they can look identical at first glance. 

But as far as flavor is concerned, red cabbage tastes slightly peppery. It has a different flavor profile than radicchios. Using red cabbage will give your dish the same look, but expect a change in flavor. 

8. Frisée

Also called French endive or curly endive, frisée looks nothing like radicchio. It has long, curly stems with short leaves.

Frisée leaves offer a bitter taste, so you can use them to take the place of radicchio in most dishes.

Don’t expect to get the same aesthetic appeal, though. 

9. Mustard Greens

Mustard greens can also work as radicchio swaps. They are widely available and easy to find. Plus, even when mustard greens do not have the same appearance, they possess a bitter taste. 

This taste is comparable to that of radicchios. So, using mustard greens will give your final dish a similar taste. 

10. Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are also among the suitable options for a radicchio alternative. Why? With their nutty and peppery taste comes that all-important bitter flavor. Like radicchio, you can cook away its unpleasant taste if needed.

This bitterness can be too intense for some, so be cautious when using them.

11. Escarole

Escarole is not as bitter as radicchio but makes a good substitute. A leafy green available all year round, escarole is accessible and easy to find. Plus, it is more affordable than radicchio.

The downside is that escarole leaves do not carry much appeal due to their rugged look. 

12. Red Leaf Lettuce

Another radicchio lettuce substitute is the red leaf variety. Looking at the color, you’ll easily recognize this lettuce on grocery store shelves. It looks like romaine lettuce but with red, almost purple tops. 

Red leaf lettuce also has a similar color and slightly bitter taste. Plus, this lettuce variety is a mainstay on most fresh produce shelves. 

How to Choose the Best Radicchio Substitute

You’ll have to consider several factors when looking for an alternative to radicchio. 

1. First, you need to pay attention to the color. Radicchio has a unique color that brightens up any dish. While other leafy greens can replace it, only a few share its hue. If you’re after that pleasing reddish-purple color, go for red-leaf lettuce or red cabbage. 

2. Second, you’ll need to check the flavor because radicchio is distinctly bitter. Go for bitter substitutes if your recipe requires a bitter taste. Watercress, dandelion greens, and mustard greens are among your best options. 

3. Lastly, you also have to consider availability. Radicchio itself is not easy to find. It just makes sense for your substitute to be accessible. The most widely available ones are romaine lettuce, mustard greens, and radish.

Must-try Radicchio Recipes

Radicchios are versatile ingredients that can elevate your recipes. You can also eat them as is or as part of a salad or savory dish. 

If you want a quick one, try this Sauteed Radicchio with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar recipe. It only has five ingredients and cooks in no time. 

Another recipe worth trying is this Pasta with Radicchio, Bacon, and Walnuts dish.

Or you can also add radicchio to Kale Crunch Salad for extra flavor. 

What Are The Nutritional Benefits Of Eating Radicchio?

Radicchio does not disappoint in terms of health benefits. It is a good source of vitamin K, which promotes better heart and bone health. This vegetable also has fiber, which aids in digestion. 

How Do You Prolong The Shelf Life Of Radicchio?

Radicchio has a short shelf life, but you can extend it by holding off on washing. Store it in the fridge unwashed, and they will keep fresh for five days.

Can You Eat Raw Radicchio?

Yes, radicchio can be eaten raw. Do note that it has a strong bitter taste when uncooked. 

Summary

Radicchio is a bitter leafy vegetable with a vibrant red-purple color. It adds color and gives a slight kick of bitterness to dishes. You can also have it boiled or sauteed, as cooking it mellows its flavor and makes it more palatable. 

Finding this unique leafy green is not easy. But many radicchio substitutes are available. Among the best are red cabbage, mustard greens, and Belgian endives.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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